A first for girls and rugby league

By Mathias Huckert 06 August 2016, 12:00AM

It was all about the ladies at Marist St. Joseph’s Stadium yesterday. 

What the four teams from Papauta College, Pesega College and St. Mary’s College were able to show on the field was indeed something to be proud of. 

Lots of tackles, scrums and tries was the order of the day.

The tournament was the first of its kind to take place on the island of Upolu after an earlier competition last year had already been organised by Samoa’s Rugby League in Savai’i.

“Last year, our school only participated with the boy’s team in Savai’i. But this time, we took the chance and attended the girl’s tournament. Pesega College has two teams in the tournament, the first one with girls from year 13 and the second with year 12 girls,” said head coach Grace Schwenke.

According to the coach, the preparations for the tournament had started early, with strong support provided by the Rugby League Samoa.

“The Samoa Rugby League Development Offices were able to visit us twice a week to help out with our trainings and making the girls more familiar with the different player positions and the rules.”

But this support was not only limited to the young players as well. “The also helped us teachers out, because for me, it is only the second time to teach our two girl’s rugby league teams.”

Schwenke said the fascination for rugby is something girls share as much as boys do in Samoa. 

“There were a lot of girls that wanted to play rugby for several years now at my school but they weren’t able to get the opportunity, because for girls, it’s always about netball.”

This has changed now with the tournament at Marist St. Joseph Stadium. 

“They were glad and very excited as well to learn about the game. Some of them already played rugby, but only now they finally have the chance to play in a competition against other schools.”

This chance was in fact not ignored by the players of the tournament. 

“It’s an honour to be part of the first tournament for girls here. 

We’ve been training for about a month now and it was pure fun because you get to know more people at your school that have the same interest as you,” said Leighan Crichton. The 16-year old rugby player took part at the tournament as a member of Pesega College’s second team.

To share the interest for the sport among young women in Samoa was also the intention of the National Rugby League that was hosting the event. “Part of our assistance as the tournament’s hosting organisation was to train along with the girls in preparation,” said Gabrielle Apelu, Manager of the N.R.L. 

“This is the first time for all of the girls to play in an actual rugby league tournament, so we knew that we were the ones to assist them. It’s always part of our program that if we introduce something new, we make sure that everybody involved also can enjoy the game with the right amount of safety, which plays an important role.”

There was also another quite prominent guest who did indeed enjoy the tournament: Along with present Miss Samoa, Ariano Taufao, Australia’s High Commissioner Sue Langford was present at Marist St. Joseph Stadium to encourage the girls that were giving their best on the rugby field. 

“I think it is a terrific opportunity for the girls. 

“What I just watched during the last half hour showed me that the standard and quality of play is just outstanding. Also, the spirit of friendship they show is just wonderful to witness. 

“I am very proud to support them through the High Commission’s Pacific Sports Partnership and the N.R.L,” Langford said.

The potential that competitions like this first of its kind rugby league tournament for girls offer to Samoa are without a doubt valuable for the future outcome of the country’s favourite kind of sport: “I think that the Samoa Rugby League provides a great opportunity for many girls to move on to the next level with playing rugby and maybe be able to represent Samoa overseas one day”, Pesega College’s head coach Grace Schwenke concluded.

By Mathias Huckert 06 August 2016, 12:00AM
Samoa Observer

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